RU and Brad Thomson talk with David Petersen and totally fail in their goal to not “geek out” all over the place.
RU: How long does one issue of Mouse Guard take to make?
David Petersen (DP): 3 months. The thing is with that is I always think I can maintain a schedule.
RU: Have you and Archaia thought about not soliciting the books until the whole story is complete?
DP: Honestly, no. With my schedule that would be way too long for fans to wait for anything to be published. This way, when an issue is finished, it can be out in shops. There are other reasons for delays. We send our comics to Korea to be printed and that can take up to 8 weeks to get back with transportation and everything. Because of all of this I make a point to keep in touch with blog posts every Tuesday to maintain a constant dialogue with the fans. These entries highlight progress on my books and some artwork. I am also on twitter and I put out a sketchbook every year.
RU: What’s with the size and shape of the book?
DP: When I first started going to shows to promote Mouse Guard as a self-published comic, I had to find a way to stand out and catch the eyes of readers and publishers. When you are surrounded by other unknown creators you have to figure out a way to make people take notice of your unknown work, and for me that was the layout of the comic. I took legal size paper and folded it in half. From there I worked the size down to 8” x 8” to make the math easier for printing purposes. The benefit of the legal size paper, for me, is that it makes layout panels work better, in a normal comic where it is bigger vertically than horizontally, layout panels are skewed to the point where it feels as if the space isn’t used properly. Once I had #1 printed and I took it to shows with me, Mark Smylie from Archaia took notice and one of the first questions he asked me was if I was willing to change the size of my book. When I answered “no” his response was “good, that is the correct answer.”
You are not the first fan to ask about the size.
RU: I wait for hardcover because of storage issues
DP: You are not the first person to say that either. At first, stores also hated the size because of display problems. In some stores Mouse Guard was up front on the counter near the cash register...
RU: Mouse Guard became an impulse buy?
DP: [smirking] Yes.
RU: Around the same time as Mouse Guard came out, Mice Templar was also published. How did that go over with you and [Mouse Guard co-creator] Michael Avon Oeming?
DP: There were never any real hard feelings between the two books. Guard was self-published back in the early 2000s and the first Mice Templar book was published in 1998. Neither of us knew about the other. I have heard jokes about a Fables / Templar / Guard crossover, but that will never happen. I like both of those books, but there are enough differences that a crossover would diminish all the properties.
Brad Thomson (BT): Legends of the Guard, how did that work with all the different creators working on your property?
DP: Very smoothly. Except for two stories, they were all drawn and written by the same person, which was one of my goals. I did not write any of the stories, nor did provide an outline for them. When needed, I helped smooth out and edit down some of the stories that went over the page limit.
We have a Legends 2 book coming out where Bill Willingham is writing and drawing a story. He has started doing art again with some covers and pages here and there, and I was the one that brought his art “out of retirement” by saying that he had to draw his Mouse Guard story [David noted that Willingham would “kill” him when he sees this, we re-assured him that no one reads our site. We all laughed]
BT: So, do the creators have to send you anything?
DP: Yes, I get a pitch from them before hand, and I might provide some direction, but the story is all theirs.
RU: From the people I know who read Mouse Guard, it seems to me that the proliferation of the trade market has helped your career.
DP: Very much so. It was with the publication of the first hardcover that I was able to quit my day job at an antiques shop.
BT: What was the first comic or character you remember creating? It does not have to be published.
DP: In 4th grade (around) I remember creating an Archie-like book where each character had a two-wheeled skateboard and a different dog that was supposed to relate to the kid in some way. After that was Blue Cap Transfo who was a ninja with a head like a turtle and three whips of hair. On his arm was a bucket that contained weapons he could use. Eventually the bucket evolved into a digital armband.
RU: What are you reading?
[Author’s Note – RU purchased an awesome commission from David Petersen he will upload once he is back at work and can steal the scanner]